Most stains require 24 hours to dry, so having good weather is crucial. Check the forecast – you’ll want to avoid any rain or harsh temperatures for your project.

Hand with sander prepping top of wood railing.


Before you prep, inspect the wood’s current condition. This will influence the type of stain you need. ​​Aim for the surface to be free of all dirt, mildew stains, loose wood fibers and other foreign matter. In order for a stain to be effective, it must be able to penetrate the wood surface. Sand any areas of the surface that are uneven or splintered until it is completely smooth.

Next, apply Fast Acting Wood Cleaner, ​and let it set for 5-10 minutes. Scrub stubborn areas with a good deck brush and rinse thoroughly. Be sure to let the surface dry completely before you stain.

Gloved hand using brush to stain top of railing.


Once the surface is clean, you're ready to stain. Apply a fresh coat of stain with a small nylon or polyester brush. Shake and stir thoroughly, before and during use. Apply the stain to small sections at a time, recommended 1-3 boards. Start at one edge of the board and work end-to end, following through to the end of the boards to avoid lap marks. Do not overapply. To avoid over-applying, one-coat application is recommended.

Types of Stains

Clear Sealers and Stains can be categorized by their opacity – or, the intensity of the pigment in the stain. Common types of stains include:

  • Clear Sealer
  • Transparent
  • Semi-transparent
  • Solid

For new or bare wood we recommend using Clear Sealer or Transparent Stain. If wood is weather but still in good condition, we recommend Semi-Transparent Stain. And Solid Stain is ideal for older and weathered wood.

Benefits of Water-Based Stains

Valspar Exterior Wood Stains are water-based which means they offer the simplicity and ease-of-use, while also offering beauty and protection. With over 3,000 colors to choose from and rain-ready in only 4 hours, you’ll have your next project looking great in no time and will last for years to come.